“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

– Steve Jobs

I haven’t always been an online teaching evangelist.  I didn’t even believe in online education when I first started teaching online.  To be honest, I did it for all the wrong reasons.  It was clear that online courses weren’t going away, and I needed a way to make some “easy-money” while I wrote my book and raised my family.  Then, the unexpected happened.  I fell in love.

It only took one online course for me to realize that I had found my true calling.  I loved it.  I was good at it.  And I wanted to do a whole lot more of it.

I have seen my fair share of eye rolls when I tell people that I enjoy teaching online courses more than onsite courses, but there are three reasons why teaching online is a perfect fit for me.

1.  I Get to Work When I Want:

I love my work, but I certainly don’t always feel like doing it.  I have multiple autoimmune diseases, an energetic 4-year-old, and Netflix.  There are times when I just don’t have much left in the tank.

Be honest.  How many times have you contemplated quitting your job when the alarm clock blares? 

If I am teaching onsite classes, I have to be ready to teach Microbiology at 8:00 AM on Tuesdays whether I feel like it or not.  I will still show up.  I will still get paid.  But the students get a mediocre learning experience.  I am not ok with that.

Teaching online means that I don’t have to let the clock boss me around.  I let my mind and body tell me when to work.  I am able to work when it energizes me.  I am able to take a break when it drains me.  And, whether I am working at 8:00 AM or 11:00 PM, the students are always getting me at my best.

2.  I Get to NOT Work When I Want:

I don’t know how you feel about your family, but I freaking love mine!

I love every part of being a dad.  Even the tough stuff.  But I can’t pay the mortgage with Hot Wheels and hugs.  I am so thankful that I have built a career that doesn’t make me choose whether I want to feed my family or nourish them.

Being an online teacher gives me the freedom to do what is most important at any given moment.  A lot of the time that is teaching, but there are times that my family needs me to be a dad and a husband rather than a teacher.  I don’t have to choose between being available for my students or available for my family.  I get to do both.

And who wouldn’t want to spend more time with an epic kid like Oliver O’Neill

Oliver is going to grow up whether or not I pay attention.  I love that I get to spend my mornings with him.  I love that I can work when he is at school (or asleep) so that I can give him my full attention when he needs me.  I can pause my work, do the things that really matter, and then pick up where I left off.

Check out this infographic on Pinterest for more info about getting the most out of working from home.

3.  I Get to Work on What I Want:

Want to know the secret to my success as an online teacher?  I rarely ever think about my course content once the semester begins.

The asynchronous nature of online teaching allows me to focus on content as I am building my online courses so that I can focus on connecting with students during the course.  This is where the real magic of online courses happens.  I have already “laid out the feast” in advance.  I don’t have to think about what I am going to TEACH my students this week.  It frees me up to focus on how I am going to REACH them.


Developing a strong connection with your online students takes a lot of time, effort, and ingenuity.  Solving this puzzle is the most energizing part of my job.

Teaching online courses doesn’t take brilliance.  It takes creativity.  The question is: are you creative enough to teach online? 

Check out my 3-part series on engaging online students if you need some help in this area.

Bonus:  I Get to Make More Money for My Work:

Money certainly doesn’t buy my happiness, but it does buy me some peace of mind.  I love love love my job, but I would stop doing it if they stopped paying me.

Teaching online has been the best financial decision that I have ever made.  It has doubled my income, diversified my income streams in uncertain times, and made me more valuable to employers that see the power of online education.

The landscape is changing.  The future of education is online.  Becoming an epic online teacher is the best way to make sure that you get to be a part of it.

Final Thoughts:

Teaching online courses is not for everyone.  It may not even be for you.  But the flexibility and creativity that come with teaching online have made me a better teacher, a better dad, and a more fulfilled human being.  It feeds my heart, my mind, and my soul.  And I wouldn’t trade careers with anyone.

I want to hear from you.  Feel free to:

  • Leave a comment below.  I will personally reply to each one
  • Tag me @GrowGrayMatter on Twitter or LinkedIn to move the discussion to my favorite social media channels
  • Send me a message through the contact form on the bottom of the About page

Crush it!

Dr. O


  1. Ann

    I am an ELL teacher (teaching high school). I always thought I would love teaching online but only got to experience it during COVID-19 quarantine. Now I am amazed. I love it a lot more than I thought I would. I wish I could continue teaching online after the quarantine is over, but I know we’ll be back in the classroom…

    • Frank O'Neill

      Hopefully, there are other opportunities to work online in the future. Perhaps you could transition your courses to more of a hybrid format. That is what I have done. I have pulled all of my favorite elements from online courses into my face-to-face classes.

      Thanks for reaching out 🙂


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